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24/07/2014 7:37 pmEffort made for clients defines tier-one firms | The Australian
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24/07/2014 7:37 pmEffort made for clients defines tier-one firms | The Australian
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24/07/2014 7:37 pmEffort made for clients defines tier-one firms | The Australian
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THE AUSTRALIAN | Effort made for clients defines tier one firms

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An article on strategic account management by Joel Barolsky

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THE AUSTRALIAN | Effort made for clients defines tier one firms

  1. 1. 24/07/2014 7:37 pmEffort made for clients defines tier-one firms | The Australian Page 1 of 3http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/legal-affairs/effort-made-for-clients-defines-tier-one-firms/story-e6frg97x-1226746261801 Effort made for clients defines tier-one firms THERE is one critical difference that sets tier-one and global law firms apart from their mid- tier competitors. Tier-one and global firms are generally better at institutionalising their key client relationships. In the main, there is more of a firm-wide collaborative effort to create the most value for the client and for the firm. They recognise the importance of the client relationship as an asset of the firm and put their money and time into protecting, growing and leveraging this asset. In many mid-tier firms, people talk about "my" client, not "our" client. The prevailing mindset is that client relationships are primarily owned by individual partners. While there are attempts to cross-sell and refer others, it is usually done from the perspective of calling in a specialist to address a specific (often narrow) client need. The client is still someone's client, with others helping out when they're asked to. There are five principal reasons that underpin client hoarding. The first is reward. The firm's measurement and reward system encourages the individual to hold on to the client and do as much work as they can for that client, regardless of whether they are the most suitable provider. I recently heard of a case where a law firm's commercial partner ran a dispute for "his" client rather than refer the matter to the firm's specialists. A post-mortem of the file revealed the approach had not only exposed the firm to undue risk, but the client also ended up paying about 20 per cent more for substandard outcomes and an inefficient process. At the time, the partner's bonus was principally linked to his personal billings and so there was a huge disincentive for him to involve others. The second factor is power. In professional services, the power base of senior practitioners is often linked to their ability to make rain - or bring in work - and drive revenue growth. Having personal ownership of high-revenue clients feeds this perception and power is increased from the implied threat of leaving the firm and taking revenue with them. The third factor is legacy. Most client relationships start out as one-to-one, person-to-person engagements. Very few commence as firm-to-firm collective pitches. The individual who wins the initial work tends to keep on going and over time develops strong THE AUSTRALIAN JOEL BAROLSKY THE AUSTRALIAN OCTOBER 25, 2013 12:00AM
  2. 2. 24/07/2014 7:37 pmEffort made for clients defines tier-one firms | The Australian Page 2 of 3http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/legal-affairs/effort-made-for-clients-defines-tier-one-firms/story-e6frg97x-1226746261801 personal relationships with key buyers and influencers. While these personal bonds are great, they can come to define the overall relationship and limit others stepping into the frame and joining the club as equals. District also needs to be considered. In some instances, partners simply do not trust the quality of advice and service delivered by their colleagues. Some firms are challenged by high variability in technical ability and inconsistent service. So client hoarding is probably a good thing in these cases. However, the problem of inconsistency is often overstated and the real problem is professional arrogance and distrust based on ignorance. Another factor is control. Recent Harvard Business School research by Heidi Gardner suggests that heightened performance pressures drive people to seek control and adopt a "go it alone" mindset that undermines collaboration. Larry Richards's research work points to lawyers, in particular, having a strong autonomy and control streak. I often see firms trying to fix this problem of individual client ownership with process solutions. They put in new business development processes that require people to sit together and prepare and execute a client plan. They install new customer relationship management systems and try to get people to institutionalise client knowledge. They train staff in a new sales methodology that requires pre-call and post-call planning. What happens is that people don't pitch up to client planning meetings, they don't update the CRM and they fill in coloured sheets once or twice and then go back to the good old days. In professional services, one has to tackle this issue, first as a cultural problem. In some instances it goes to the heart of the firm's purpose. Is the firm there as a place for individual owners to practise their profession or is it a business that seeks to create and build shareholder and stakeholder value? If it's more the former, it's going to be a long hard battle trying to build the firm's relationship capital. Cultural solutions start with strong leadership and a commitment to live the firm's values. If a firm's values reflect something about respect, integrity, teamwork, service excellence, or similar ideas, then there's enough ammunition there to start and win the battle. It's really up to the firm's leadership group as to whether they have the courage to fight. Joel Barolsky is a law firm strategy consultant and facilitator, a senior fellow at the University of Melbourne and author of the Relationship Capital blog. This article is based on his address yesterday to the GlobalLaw Conference in Perth.
  3. 3. 24/07/2014 7:37 pmEffort made for clients defines tier-one firms | The Australian Page 3 of 3http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/legal-affairs/effort-made-for-clients-defines-tier-one-firms/story-e6frg97x-1226746261801 × Share this story Facebook (http://facebook.com/sharer.php?u=http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/legal-affairs/effort-made-for- clients-defines-tier-one-firms/story-e6frg97x-1226746261801&t=Effort made for clients defines tier-one firms) Twitter (https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?url=http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/legal-affairs/effort-made-for- clients-defines-tier-one-firms/story-e6frg97x-1226746261801&text=Effort made for clients defines tier-one firms) LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/shareArticle?mini=true&url=http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/legal- affairs/effort-made-for-clients-defines-tier-one-firms/story-e6frg97x-1226746261801&title=Effort made for clients defines tier-one firms) Google (https://plus.google.com/share?url=http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/legal-affairs/effort-made-for- clients-defines-tier-one-firms/story-e6frg97x-1226746261801) Email (mailto:?body=http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/legal-affairs/effort-made-for-clients-defines-tier-one- firms/story-e6frg97x-1226746261801&subject=Effort made for clients defines tier-one firms)

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